Grand Opening, Grand Success – The Bend officially opened its doors on Saturday, March 14, 2020 with a celebration for our friends and supporters. This second “Grand Opening” – the first was in 1929 – included music by the band Chicken Wire Empire. Special thanks to all our supporters and our partner restaurants, Krimmer’s and The Norbert, for providing the VIP experience. We look forward to many more memorable evenings in downtown West Bend. We are off and running.

Band Was Just Right –Their contemporary blue grass music was the perfect fit for the evening. They were hugely impressed with our “music hall” and its acoustics. They predicted music renown for “The Bend.” As president Nic Novaczyk observed, “It’s now a certainty that we have a world class venue, a music hall of the highest order for sound and ambience.”

Kudos to Volunteers – The evening went off without a hitch thanks to coordinators John Sancomb and Teri Milligan. All volunteers went through an orientation and training prior to the grand opening, so they were up to snuff for all responsibilities. Efficient ticket-taking, ushering, bar tending, guiding made the evening pleasant for all patrons. Thank you all.

Ric Lends Painting of Theatre – Ric Hartman, former board member who helped with our early graphic presentations, lent a beautiful oil painting by Jeff Darrow to the theatre. It looks at home hung near our entrance.

Restaurants Collaborate Par Excellence – Krimmer’s owners Wes and Kelsey, along with Tony Koebel of The Norbert, collaborated on the grand opening with dinners for major donors. They were impressed with their new neighbors and promised many future events. Concert goers raved about the food. (Tony put in dozens of volunteer hours as a skilled carpenter to put the finishing touches on the bar and décor of the restored theatre.)

Sunday, March 15 Events Postponed – Because the pre-registration attendances rose to over 330, a full house, exceeded the CDC recommended limit on crowds of 250 people, the executive committee cancelled Sunday’s free “thank you” for the community at large. It will be rescheduled. A new CDC guideline came out Sunday afternoon, recommended no gatherings of 50 or more. Our executives have postponed all theatre gatherings until further notice.

Stretch Limo Fit New Drop-off – A white limo, hired by Kevin Zimmer, exited it passengers in the elongated drop-off zone just north of our marquee. The city contributed $37,000 from its tourism fund to elongate the drop-off space. The old drop-off, too close to the building, allowed damage to the historic marquee. That was unacceptable given the $198,000 we invested to restore the marquee and perimeter-lit “blade,” the sign spelling out the letters “WEST BEND.” We are now good to go. The flow of people before, during, and after was efficient and easy for customers.

New Bar, Layout of Floor Worked Well -- We had debated long and hard about the floor plan before restoration. The old, sloped floor for theatre seating would never work. We needed flexibility for a multi-purpose venue. Our three-part floor plan did the trick. The flat extended lobby allowed for schmoozing before and after the event. The open floor in front of the stage was just the right size for dancing to music. It hosted a wide variety of “moves” Saturday night. The art deco bar, with final touches by Chuck Dwyer and his crew, was a hit. A balcony pop-up bar also worked well.

Champagne Toast to Theatre “Wizards” – The “wizards,” volunteers with exceptional talent who pitched in on many tasks and projects, were saluted in a Champagne toast – appropriately so. Smiles of accomplishment were on the faces of all contributors from across the community.

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